It looks like Edward Snowden and The Guardian are broadening the base of outlets for the NSA revelations, making it harder for governments to crack down on them. In addition to the Washington Post, the German Der Spiegel and the Brazilian O Globo that have already been part of the release program, today comes the announcement that the New York Times and ProPublica are also working on stories from the NSA documents.
This is a very good thing, since it makes it harder for the government and its sycophants in the media to assert that the people releasing the documents are not ‘real’ journalists, whatever that means.
Media critic David Carr of the New York Times comments on the strange phenomenon of journalists attacking Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, pointing the finger at David Gregory and Jeffrey Toobin as the most egregious perpetrators of this message.
What have Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald done to inspire such rancor from other journalists? Because of the leaks and the stories they generated, we have learned that in the name of tracking terrorists, the N.S.A. has been logging phone calls and e-mails for years, recorded the metadata of correspondence between Americans, and in some instances, dived right into the content of e-mails. The WikiLeaks documents revealed that the United States turned a blind eye on the use of torture by our Iraqi allies, and that an airstrike was ordered to cover up the execution of civilians. WikiLeaks also published a video showing a United States Army helicopter opening fire on a group of civilians, including two Reuters journalists.
The larger sense I get from the criticism directed at Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is one of distaste — that they aren’t what we think of as real journalists. Instead, they represent an emerging Fifth Estate composed of leakers, activists and bloggers who threaten those of us in traditional media. They are, as one says, not like us.
Carr then gets to the crux of the matter.
If the revelations about the N.S.A. surveillance were broken by Time, CNN or The New York Times, executives there would already be building new shelves to hold all the Pulitzer Prizes and Peabodies they expected. Same with the 2010 WikiLeaks video of the Apache helicopter attack.
Instead, the journalists and organizations who did that work find themselves under attack, not just from a government bent on keeping its secrets, but from friendly fire by fellow journalists. What are we thinking?
But with the broadening base of revelations, people like Gregory and Toobin might find themselves effectively arguing for the criminalization of an increasing number of their close colleagues. Of course they won’t do so. What I am looking forward to is seeing how they try to slowly reverse themselves without admitting that they are doing so. That should be fun to watch.